BATTLEFORD, Sask. – Gerald Stanley, a 56-year-old white farmer, shot Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man, on Stanley’s property near Biggar, Sask., in the early evening of Aug. 9, 2016. Boushie died instantly from a single bullet to the back of the head as he sat in the driver’s seat of an SUV. A jury without any visibly Indigenous members acquitted Stanley last week of second-degree murder, which sparked angry protests alleging racism.
Here’s a look at the evidence at trial:
Boushie, from the Red Pheasant First Nation, had spent most of the day with Eric Meechance, Cassidy Cross, Kiora Wuttunee and Belinda Jackson. An autopsy report showed Boushie had a blood- alcohol level more than three times the legal driving limit when he died.
Meechance testified the group had been drinking and swimming in the South Saskatchewan River. They were in Wuttunee’s SUV, a grey Ford Escape, and heading back to the reserve when they got a leak in a tire. They stopped at a farm about 15 kilometres from Stanley’s property.
Cross initially told police that the group was checking out a truck on the farm, but told court they were actually there to steal. He testified he used a rifle to break into the truck and, during the break-in, the stock of the gun broke off. The group left and Cross drove to Stanley’s farm. He said the group wanted to ask for help with the flat tire.
Meechance testified that he and Cross were on an all-terrain vehicle in Stanley’s yard, but ran when someone started yelling. Back in their SUV, Meechance said Cross drove into a parked vehicle and a man then smashed their windshield. He and Cross got out and started running.
Jackson testified that an older man came around to the passenger side of the SUV where Boushie was sitting and shot him twice in the head. She previously told police she thought a woman shot Boushie. Boushie was shot once and was seated in the driver’s seat.
Wuttunee did not testify. Court heard she was sleeping in the SUV.
Sheldon Stanley testified he was working on a fence with his father when they heard the ATV start and thought it was being stolen. They ran toward the SUV. He threw a hammer at the windshield, then ran into the house to grab his truck keys.
He said he heard two shots while he was inside and a third shot as he came out. His father was holding a gun in one hand and a magazine in the other and told him “it just went off.”
The son said two women in the back seat got out and started yelling. They pulled Boushie out of the SUV and a gun missing its stock fell out of the vehicle with the body. He said the women began hitting his mother, who had been mowing the lawn.
He said he told the women to get back in the SUV and they did. He called 911.
Stanley told the jury the shooting was an accident.
He testified that after he heard the ATV start, he and his son ran to the SUV. He kicked at a tail light, then grabbed a handgun normally used to scare off wildlife. He said he loaded the gun with two bullets and fired two shots in the air to scare the group away. He said he pulled the trigger several more times to make sure the gun was empty, then popped out the cartridge.
Stanley said he next ran to the driver’s side of the SUV because he couldn’t see his wife and was concerned she had been run over. He reached inside to take the keys out of the ignition. He was still holding the gun with his other hand. “And — boom — this thing just went off.”
He said he waited for police inside the house with his family. They drank coffee at their dining-room table.
Defence lawyer Scott Spencer argued the deadly shot was the result of a so-called hang fire, an unexpected delay between when a trigger is pulled and the discharge. Experts testified a hang fire could explain an unusual bulge found in the gun’s cartridge and that a hang fire is more likely to occur with old ammunition.
Stanley testified the bullets he used were more than 60 years old and had been stored in an unheated shed.
The experts also told court that hang fires are rare and usually last less than a second.
Chief Justice Martel Popescul told jurors they had three choices. If they found beyond a reasonable doubt that Stanley intended to shoot Boushie, he was guilty of second-degree murder.
If Stanley did not mean to shoot Boushie but his actions were careless — and he ought to have known someone could be hurt – he should be found guilty of the lesser, included offence of manslaughter.
If Stanley’s actions were reasonable, the judge said, he must be acquitted.